I’ve learned an awful lot from traditional networking events.
Firstly, I’ve realised that they are completely relevant in the digital age. Despite the abundance of social platforms on which you can promote your business and personal brand, the act of jumping into a room full of real human beings offers numerous opportunities you simply won’t find online.
Secondly, I’ve realised that lots of people are pretty bad at it. I was once, too (and, if I’m honest, I’m still learning), therefore I think I can confidently pick out five of the most common mistakes I continue to see others make:
1. Talking entirely about yourself
People want to get to know you and your business at networking events, but they don’t need a ten minute monologue about how fantastic you are.
Skip to number 3 to find out how to overcome this, but probably my biggest pet hate at networking events is people who simply ramble on about themselves without asking a single question about the person standing opposite them.
Networking events are a two-way thing; ask as many questions about the people you meet as possible. They’ll like you for it.
2. Forgetting business cards (and relying solely on LinkedIn)
The business card isn’t dead!
Yes, we all connect on LinkedIn now, but that particular social network isn’t much use when you’re stood in a conference room talking to someone you’ve never met before.
Before you head to a networking event, make sure you’ve got plenty of business cards in your back pocket, because people will expect them, and you’ll be left looking rather unprepared if you don’t have any to hand.
3. Not having a 10 second pitch
I’ve already explained how frustrating it is to be talked at during a networking event, and to avoid becoming one of those people, you need to work on your ten second pitch.
This is simply a sentence or two that explains what your business is all about within ten seconds or less. Hence the name.
Sound tricky? It is, but get it right, and you’ll immediately gain the respect of most people. Just focus on the business name, its industry and how it benefits its customers.
4. Interrupting conversations
If you’ve been to a networking gathering you’ll almost certainly have experienced the conversation interrupter.
These people make their way around the room, jumping into conversations they didn’t start without a moment’s warning. And, in doing so, they immediately irritate the people who were there first.
There’s no harm in dropping into a conversation if you overhear something to which you could add value. Just do it respectfully by waiting for a moment of silence and saying something along the lines of, “sorry, I couldn’t help overhearing…”.
5. Forgetting to follow-up
What do you do after a networking event? Why, you follow-up with the people you met and with whom you believe there to be a business opportunity.
It sounds like the next logical step, but you’d be amazed by how many people I’ve met who have shown interest in my business on the day but who subsequently fail to honour their promise of ‘getting in touch’.
Make sure you schedule a half or full day to follow-up with everyone you met at the event. This is the reason you attended, after all!
Traditional business networking is a great deal of fun if you avoid the common pitfalls above. You’ll make connections that could add real value to your business and leave an indelible mark on the people you meet.